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Date Posted: 23:41:50 07/24/04 Sat
Author: Vikki John
Subject: Solomons wiping out forests, study warns

Radio Oz, 20 July 04

Last Update: Tuesday, July 20, 2004. 6:50pm (AEST)
Solomons wiping out forests, study warns
By Sean Dorney and Graeme Dobell
Australia predicts that current rates of logging in Solomon Islands will wipe out forest resources by 2015 or earlier.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has released a study of the Solomon Islands economy prepared by his Economic Analytical Unit.
The report is aimed at helping the Solomon Islands Government build on the success of the regional assistance mission, RAMSI, which is about to celebrate the first anniversary of its intervention in the Solomons.
The study says forest resources in Solomons will be exhausted by 2015 if timber is cut at an annual rate of 600,000 cubic metres.
But the actual timber production last year was more than 700,000 cubic metres.
Most of the harvest is exported in round logs to Asia and there is little processing in the Solomons.
The report says while unsustainable logging has serious environmental consequences, it has been crucial to the Budget with the timber export tax accounting for 15 per cent of all revenue.
The study says Solomon Islands would need to more than halve the rate of logging if the vital industry is to continue until the middle of the century.
Mr Downer said the regional assistance mission had been very successful but now practical steps had to be taken if the Solomons was to achieve economic prosperity.
He said the crisis had killed off most industries except logging.
"Log exports increased but to levels so unsustainable that at their current rate resources will be exhausted within 12 years if not sooner," he said.
Mr Downer said the report recommended that the Solomon Islands Government get out of businesses like airlines, power generation and water supply and get rid of what it calls a raft of regulations inhibiting investment.

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